Keep calm and don’t blame Amazon for sellers’ choices

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Illustration by Aaron Logan

Originally a World War II slogan the British Government had printed on over 2.5 million posters in 1939, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” has recently regained popularity due to a bookstore in Alnwick, England. In 2000, Stuart and Mary Manley found a surviving copy of the poster in a box of antique books they had purchased and framed it in the shop. Seeing it, customers began requesting prints of the poster for sale. It then spread to the Internet and has snowballed into an online trend.

There are even current local versions bearing the message “Keep Calm and Wabash On,” as well as “Keep Calm and Pride On.”

One merchandiser recently got in trouble for its own spin on the trend when shirts bearing the messages “Keep Calm and Rape a Lot” and “Keep Calm and Knife Her” appeared online. The seller, Solid Gold Bomb, a company that fronts itself on Amazon, was alerted to the offensive nature of the novelty shirts and pulled the merchandise.

The official explanation is that the company was using a random word generator with a word bank from an online dictionary to create the shirt designs. They were then put up for sale online, unnoticed, by a program that was designed to show off the company’s merchandise.

I have a hard time buying this. Both of the offending shirts were advocating rape or violence and one was exclusively advocating for those attacks to be made on women. What random word generator would have a such a common theme? And how did they not control for this?

Yet Amazon came under fire for allowing the shirts to be sold on. Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, said that Amazon should make a considerable donation, around $10,000 or the profits from the offending shirts, to a women’s shelter for their mistake, according to a March 3 Blaze article by Erica Ritz.

But why should Amazon pay for someone else’s mistake? Trying to force a company to pay for consumer silence seems to be a problem that Amazon and a few other multinational corporations are having in Europe, as they don’t pay sales tax for their European businesses.

Furthermore, if Amazon were to give the proceeds from the shirts to charity, they would be donating a whopping $0. As far as I can find, not a single shirt sold. Instead of buying them, online shoppers reported the items en masse. Wouldn’t it be much more meaningful for Solid Gold Bomb to donate the money — if it has any?

Yet the company doesn’t. The Solid Gold Bomb’s sales have bottomed out since the shirts were reported near the begining of March. The only way it could donate money was if the company held an event where part of the proceeds went to charity, but I would hate to see that happen.

I’m not against donating to charity; I’m against giving such an unscrupulus company my money in the hopes that it gives it to charity. I’m also not in favor of making Amazon pay for someone else’s mistake.

I would prefer concerned citizens just give to the charity directly rather than hope a middle man or some organization with pockets absolves them of their duty to vote with their wallets. If people want our money more than those who need it, they have to earn it.

Patrick White is a junior in journalism and mass communications. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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